Benjamin Franklin relies on heavy rushing attack to control game, achieve success

Chandler Miles (5) weaves his way through defenders during an Aug. 22 practice at Benjamin Franklin High School. Miles rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns in the Chargers’ season opener against Ganado. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

At Benjamin Franklin High School, it’s not about what looks pretty on the football field, it’s about what gets the job done.

The Chargers found success last season by simply running the football. They ran the ball 594 time for 3,722 yards compared to 117 passing attempts, resulting in an 11-2 overall record and a trip to the 3A semifinals.

So far, Benjamin Franklin is on pace to hit those numbers again this season.

The key to this success is pushing for four- to five-yard gains on each runs, devouring the clock in the process and leaving little time for opposing offenses to get the ball, Benjamin Franklin Head Coach Dave Jefferies says.

“I think so often, we get caught up in what looks cool to fans and what they see on Saturdays,” he said. “Last year, I threw all that aside and said, ‘I’m just going to focus on marching down the field and getting first downs and winning the game.’”

Last year was the best season the Chargers have put together since the school started playing 11-man football about five years ago. This year, they return their top two rushers but are bringing in several newcomers to the offensive line and quarterback positions.

Still, the team showed flashes of its 2017 self Friday, Aug. 17 in a 63-6 win over Ganado High School. In that victory, the Chargers rushed for 441 yards on 43 carries and eight touchdowns. They only threw the ball once, resulting in an incompletion, according to maxpreps.com.

Chandler Miles (5) tries to break free on a run while Chancin Loving (31) sets up for a block during an Aug. 22 practice at Benjamin Franklin High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

This style of play, Coach Jefferies says, came from wanting to better utilize his players’ skills. He said during a 2014 playoff loss to the Arizona Lutheran Academy when he was coaching at Thatcher High School, he believed he had the more talented team but they weren’t used correctly.

He took the film from that loss and saw how well his opponents used the double wing offense. He decided to adapt the offense to his team and has used it ever since, he said.

The double wing offense has all 11 players close together with two tight ends attached to the offensive line and the receivers set back and just outside the tight ends. The quarterback is under center with a running back just behind him.

For the first few years at Benjamin Franklin, Coach Jefferies said he didn’t think he was utilizing his players fully, so he made the change in style to the current model.

“It really wasn’t about running or throwing necessarily, but it was about a style that worked for our kids and the limitations we had based on our kids and our program,” he said.

Chandler Miles, a senior running back, said what makes the Chargers’ offense successful is its novelty.

“I think other teams have never seen anything like what we do, and we come in and surprise them with how it goes,” Miles said.

From the offensive line’s perspective, lineman McCallister Loving said there is a lot that goes into running a successful rushing attack.

“It’s definitely a tougher, offensive blocking scheme,” Loving said. “It’s more hands-on, getting dirty and just getting in there and punching it.”

This offense features two capable runners in Miles and junior Zach Jefferies with both rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns each. Coach Jefferies said Jefferies was injured in the season-opener but sophomore Chancin Loving filled for Jefferies well.

Miles enters his senior season with his sights set on 2,000 rushing yards, but he said he recognizes if he is to get to that point, it’ll be a team effort.

A big key for any running game is the offensive line. Benjamin Franklin lost several linemen to graduation but Coach Jefferies said he’s not worried about the players who are filling those roles.

“A kid may not have varsity experience but he should have experience running this style of offense,” he said. “With our JV running it all year last year — and that’s the plan again this year — those guys should be able to move right in and take over a spot.”

Last season proved to be a surprise for many in and out of the program, causing the team, Coach Jefferies said, to “feel like it had something to prove” each week.

This year, the Chargers won’t only be fighting against opposing teams, but also complacency, Coach Jefferies said.

He said while players have state championship aspirations, the coaches need to keep the players focused on actually getting to the playoffs.

“The coaching staff is doing everything we can to focus on winning one game at a time so we can earn an 11th game,” Coach Jefferies said. “Once we earn the 11th game, then we can talk about ‘ok, let’s see what we’re made of.’

“But nothing happens unless we earn that 11th game.”

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